Philly Chefs Offer Their Best Home Cooking Advice

Just because you're eating at home doesn't mean you can't cook like the pros.

food experiences

You used to be able to hire Nicholas Elmi to cook for you in your own home. Now, these cooking tips are the next best thing. Photograph by Michael Persico

Have you recently become an avid home cook? Got a new interest in baking? You’ve got to find something to do with all that time on your hands, but you don’t have to do it alone. As always, we’ve got a direct line to the city’s best chefs to help keep you happily cooking inside your house.

Nicholas Elmi, Laurel, In the Valley and Royal Boucherie 

When you’re grilling or roasting a pice of meat go slow in the beginning. Lightly sear or mark on the grill and flip constantly. Let it rest then finish with high heat for a hard sear or strong grill marks. You can always add color. You can’t take it away.

Ed Crochet, Fiore Fine Foods 

The best tip I can give is that caramelizing food is more important than people realize. The cooks at Fiore are always teasing me because I say the word “caramelize” in the kitchen pretty much constantly. But those same cooks are always impressed by how good of our ragus always taste. The caramelization process adds a depth of flavor vegetables and proteins that is impossible to acquire in any other way.

Judy Ni, Baology 

Save your scraps — bones, fat, leftover veggies. They can be used to make stock or sauces! It’s a great way to use more of the animal, add flavor, stretch your dollars and avoid going to the grocery store too soon.

Eli Collins, + bar 

Use pantry items such spices or condiments to enhance flavor and make something standard into something different.  For example, adding store bought Harrissa paste to chicken noodle soup would take it in a totally different direction but still keep it a soulful comfort dish.  Or a spoon of sambal sauce in some buttered pasta is so easy and simple but can be so full of flavor. Always finish a dish with touch of acid either fresh citrus or a vinegar.  Make note of how different acids change the flavor of dishes so you can play around with it in the future.

Camille Cogswell, K’Far

Temperature of ingredients is one factor that can make a huge difference in the success of your baking. You won’t be able to properly cream your butter and sugar with cold butter. You don’t start to get that aeration until the fat is soft enough. Properly creamed butter and sugar should feel like whipped cream when you swipe your finger through it. If it still feels waxy, dense, or overly grainy then your ingredients are either too cold or you haven’t let it whip long enough. Here are a couple easy ways to warm the most temperature-sensitive ingredients on the fly:

  • Butter: soften in the microwave, turning it over every 5 seconds until it’s evenly softened, but not melted.
  • Eggs: put in a small bowl, then place inside a larger bowl filled with warm water. Stir the eggs with a fork occasionally until they don’t feel cold to the touch anymore, the warm water bath will take the chill off, just don’t use water that’s too hot and will start to cook them!